We've barely made it to day four of the ceasefire, and already the usual suspects (Syrian President Al-Assad, Jumblatt & co) are trying to stir the shit pot. And many Lebanese are falling for it-- the old sectarian trap, and the blame-Syria-for-your-bad-hair-day game.
A few Lebanese billionaire politicians announced that they would repair the infrastructure in and around their hometowns/ political bases. Hariri Jr. and his aunt Bahia will pay for bridges in Saida (Rafiq Hariri's birthplace), Najib Miqati will fund a few in the north, and the Hjejj family will cover the repairs to the Litani river bridges. Who needs a central government?
Yesterday evening, I witnessed a friendly tiff between the owner of the Internet cafe and a client. We were discussing the arrest of a Lebanese Army general who was caught on camera serving tea to the Israeli troops that occupied his barracks in Marjayoun. The client interrupted our conversation and flew into a fury, blaming the Syrians for the weather, his daughter's promiscuity, the flat tire his car suffered, the acute avocado shortage, and so on and so forth. The owner kept trying to divert the conversation back to the original topic. To no avail.
In that same Internet cafe, there are three employees, all roughly the same age-- in their early 20s, all business and finance students at American institutions, all boys looking to have a good time. Two are Shia, one Druze. Throughout the war, they worked double shifts together to cover for the employees who had evacuated or fled to Syria. They were exposed to the same airstrikes, played the same video wargames, day in, day out. Now that the war's over, the Druze boy is the subject of endless snipes about his leader, his people. I always contribute, "You Druze, you lose", which is lost on all of them, and then call the two Shia "terrorists" for good measure. This lightens the loaded atmosphere considerably; they in turn accuse me of being a spy, to which I add "and a prostitute/Jehova's witness."
Amin, the owner of Cafe Younes, told me that 4 of the employees from one of his coffeeshop branches returned to work today. They are all in their 20s-- two Shia, two Christians. Before the war, they would hang out off the job, go to nightclubs together. They are friends. During the war, one of the Shia girls who lives in Dahieyeh fled to the Bekaa valley, which was also heavily bombed by the Israelis. The Christians spent their time up in the mountains in Broumana, a Christian area and summer resort.
They met yesterday for the first time since the beginning of the war. The Shia girl was exhausted and traumatized by the continuous bombing; the Christian mocked her for it. She asked him, "What were you doing the whole time up in Broumana? Partying? Hanging out at the pool club?" He retorted, "What else am I supposed to do? This wasn't our war. We didn't ask for it." "Well its not your victory, either," she snapped.
Someone go tell that to Bashar al-Assad, Saad Hariri and a few other party crashers.
On another note, I crossed paths with Sudanese man today who was wearing a T-shirt that read (in German): I am a homosexual, retarded, asylum-seeking foreigner in Germany". I stopped him to be sure I had read correctly. "Do you know what your T-shirt says?" I asked. "No," he responded. I translated it for him, and then added that I think it was meant ironically. He shrugged, and continued on his way.
I forgot to ask him if he retrieved that shirt from a humanitarian relief package. Do they monitor the slogans on T-shirts donated to charity? Apparently not.